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Saturday, January 2, 2016

What Are Your 12 Stones?

Joshua 4:1-8
When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel.  He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there.

Did you pick up on that? God commanded them to go back to the middle of the river – to revisit the test of faith – once they were already across it.

I don’t know what kind of year you’ve had. Yes, I see what you post on social media, but I recognize that it is only a skewed fraction of your reality. Many of you have endured the loss of a loved one, others have weathered a season of transition in which you had no choice but to move. Some have struggled with their marriage and other family relationships. Financial struggles, health scares, job stresses… I think it’s fair to say that in some way or another, there were struggles we each faced this year.

I find it audacious of our God to command the Israelite leaders to return to the middle of their “struggle” to retrieve an appropriate stone to make a memorial out of. Not just any stone along the banks would do. It had to be from the center of the very thing that could have killed them, had God not interviened. Obediently they went and gathered 12 stones; one for each tribe.

We may not operate in tribes in modern-day America, but we do operate in families. And, there happen to be 12 months in our year. I challenge you to sit and review all the ups and downs that have been dealt to you this year. Look at each month, one at a time. What lesson did you learn? What attribute of God did you come to understand more fully? The Israelites were told to go back – so that they would remember – so that their children and grandchildren would know.

In January, I learned so much about God’s timing. I was dealt more than a few disappointments. I struggled with selfishness and wanting things done my way, NOW. Thankfully, God’s timing proved once again to be the best. He saved me from what would have been a terrible situation! Just because He says “No” doesn’t mean it’s a “No” forever.

We are all precious in His sight. In February I was privileged to be able to teach cooking classes for teens at the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico. I learned far more than I ever taught them. So full of love and joy; so happy to give a hug or word of encouragement. The students I had brought so much light to my life and helped me see just how precious we all are in the eyes of our Father.

I spent much of the month of March doing extensive remodeling to my house; knocked out walls, laid tile, painted walls, refinished cabinets… I learned that transformation is easy, it just takes work. Are you willing and ready to become a better version of yourself? Grab a can of grace and a roller of faith and get on it!

My parents put in motion the most epic scheme in April, flying my best friend out from
New Jersey to spend a week with me. It feels good to help fill someone’s heart. Have you ever made someone so happy they cry? It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? With so much in our society constantly draining our hearts, it is a gift and blessing to be able to fill someone else with joy and hope.

The shovel and the spoon was a sermon I listened to in May by Louie Giglio. The lesson hasn’t left me yet. Major conflict, pain and tension was stirred during this month and the sermon was so very timely. Each of us are daily given the option to choose between a shovel and a spoon. With which object do you dish out grace? Especially when you’ve been wronged? I tend to find the spoon and sprinkle as little as possible upon the perpetrator. Yet, when I’m on the other end, I expect a shovel-load of grace dumped upon me. I’m so thankful that God has a dump truck of grace for me on a daily basis. It is the least I can do to choose to use a shovel each day.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney. With God, all things are possible. I saw mountains move during the month of June. Strongholds broken, restoration and hope breathed into death bringing a breath of life, visions take shape and immeasurable strength to endure.

I will never again say “It’s not fair,” unless I am talking about those kids. In July I was blessed to attend Director’s Training for Royal Family Kids Camp prior to launching New Mexico’s first RFK Camp. Abused and neglected foster children are given the opportunity to attend a week-long camp, free-of-charge, in hopes that they might create positive childhood memories. I have never wept so hard in my life, nor have I ever felt so incredibly selfish about the things I complain about. Many of these kids
had irrational fears, deep emotional issues, brokenness beyond compare, scars that told stories you never wanted to hear… and most had never had a birthday party or been given a gift ever in their life. Camp was one of the most profound experiences of 2015, and I will never be the same. Nor will I ever say, “It’s not fair” in regards to myself ever again.

August presented a new opportunity. Don’t quit was the recurring lesson. Many times I wanted to throw in the towel or come up with a way to get out. I am so thankful that God gave me the grace to hang in there. Unless God closes a door, He doesn’t usually want you to quit something He’s asked you to do.

In September I visited one of my favorite places, the Little Bear burn scar. Things grow better after a fire. Just a few years after the June 2012 fire, new life has taken it’s rightful place on the mountainside. It’s healthy and lush. As the mountain comes back to life, I notice how much more beautiful it is now than before the fire. When God allows things in your life to burn, it’s most likely that He’s making room for something better.

I’ve been adopted. In October, I attended the adoption ceremony of one of the children who came to Camp with us in July. The scriptures came alive as I witnessed first hand the life-saving gift of adoption. Hope for the future, a new name, a solidified identity… and to thing the God of the universe adopted me into HIS family.

My knight appeared this year and showed me that I am worth fighting for. He placed a ring 
on my finger in November and promised to always fight for me and alongside me. I’ve had many others prior to him fight only for themselves. For a while, I was convinced that I would never be worth it to anyone. How thankful I am! You are worth fighting for too… sometimes it’s easy to forget or talk yourself out of that truth. “I’ve been told, to pick up my sword and fight for love, little did I know that Love has won for me.” – WeDance by Bethel Music

The end of a thing is better than the beginning. Ecclesiastes 7:8. I pray this is always
true for each season I face. May the end always be sweeter than the beginning.
December closes the year and it has been even better than it began!

What are your 12 stones from the year? I dare you to trek back into the middle of
your trials and losses this year and pull something from it. Don’t trudge onward
with nothing to show for what you’ve endured.

We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you,
‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan
River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’

Look at what they were told to tell their children. One sentence of God’s faithfulness!
They could have dwelt on their time in the wilderness, or the fears and complexities
of crossing the river, or what Egypt was like. But they were told to focus on the
simplicity of God’s faithfulness to them.

When you look back at your river of 2015, I pray you will choose to select the stones
of God’s faithfulness, knowing that upon those very rocks, you could have died – but
you didn’t. Allow His promises, not your pain, to be what your children and
grandchildren know to be true.